American-Made Challenges


Solar Prize Round 3

The American-Made Solar Prize is a $3 million prize competition designed to accelerate and sustain American solar innovation.
$3 million in total prizes, distributed through 3 contest stages (see rules)

Challenge Overview

Solar Prize Round 3


Solar Prize Contests

Innovation happens when the right resources, people, and passion come together. With the Solar Prize, teams of creative individuals and entrepreneurs will advance conceptual solutions toward product realities with the support of a unique and powerful network and a chance to win up to $3 million in cash prizes.



A prize competition structured for success

The Solar Prize is an opportunity for anyone interested in accelerating ideas and solutions. The American-Made Network is designed to strengthen and scale the very best ideas and teams through three progressive prize competitions, the Ready! Set! Go! Contests. This network provides the tools and expertise to help projects succeed and is comprised of an unparalleled innovation system. These resources will provide technical insight, product validation, and strategic support to teams throughout the competition.


Competing in the prize is easy!

  1. Identify an important problem you want to solve
  2. Submit a 90-second video describing your challenge and proposed solution, team, and plan
  3. Answer a short, four-question narrative and make a slide about this problem or challenge
  4. Submit a two-page technical assistance request
  5. Update your videos and statements as you advance through the contests.


More than $3 million in incentives for innovation

The Ready! Set! Go! Contests will fast-track efforts to identify, develop, and test disruptive solutions to solar industry needs for a total of $3 million in cash prizes and up to $900,000 in vouchers which can be used at national laboratories and other voucher facilities to develop, test, and validate. Each stage will have a 90-day performance period when participants work to advance their solutions.


Ready!Up to 20  Up to $1,000,000 distributed equally among each winner with $50,000 per winner.
Set!Up to 10  $1,000,000 in total cash prizes and $750,000 in total vouchers. Each winner will receive a cash prize of $100,000 and up to $75,000 in vouchers.
Go!Up to 2$500,000 in cash and up to $75,000 in vouchers per winner


The Ready! Set! and Go! Contests

It all starts with a big idea. Once a completed package has been submitted on HeroX, your video will be made public and you’ll become part of the Ready! Contest.


  • Ready! Contest
    90 days / up to 20 winners / up to $50,000 cash 
    Winners will be selected after identifying an impactful idea or solution addressing a critical need in the solar industry;


  • Set! Contest
    90 days / up to 10 winners / up to $100,000 prize and up to $75,000 in vouchers 
    Competitors will work to substantially advance their technology solution toward a viable and promising proof of concept.


  • Go! Contest
    90 days / up to 2 winners / $500,000 prize and up to $75,000 in vouchers 
    ​Competitors will work to substantially advance their solution from proof of concept to a refined prototype and find a partner to perform a pilot test of the prototype.


  • Demo Days
    Competitors in the Set! and Go! Contests pitch and demonstrate proof of concepts and prototypes to a judging panel and audience at two, live, in-person Demo Day events. Demo days are opportunities to meet competitors, connectors, power connectors, and other members of the American-Made Network. Demo Days culminate in the announcement of Set! and Go! prize winners.


Anyone can compete

Competitors are entrepreneurial individuals or teams, legally residing or based in the U.S., can compete including members of one or multiple organizations, students, university faculty members, small business owners, researchers, or anyone with the desire and drive to transform ideas into impactful realities.


Ready!, Set!, Go! Guidelines

The Ready!, Set!, and Go! Contests will fast-track efforts to identify, develop, and test disruptive solutions to meet solar industry needs. Each stage will include a contest period when participants will work to rapidly advance their solutions. DOE invites anyone, individually or as a team, to compete to transform a conceptual solution into product reality.

Please visit the How to Compete in the American-Made Solar Prize page to view the full rules for the American-Made Challenges Solar Prize.



The American-Made Solar Prize is a $3 million prize competition designed to revitalize U.S. solar manufacturing through a series of contests and the development of a diverse and powerful support network that leverages national laboratories, energy incubators, and other resources across the country. The American-Made Solar Prize is directed and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. Learn more.

Updates 14

Challenge Updates

Congrats, Solar Prize Round 3 Finalists!

July 10, 2020, 11:37 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

On July 10, the U.S. Department of Energy and National Renewable Energy Laboratory announced 10 Solar Prize Round 3 finalist teams. These teams were chosen for the considerable progress they’ve made since winning the Ready! Contest. 

Twenty semifinalist teams participated in a virtual Round 3 Set! Demo Day on Thursday, July 10. Prior to Set! Demo Day, teams submitted 4-minute video pitches, which were reviewed by a panel of industry experts and posted online for public view. During Set! Demo Day, each team had a 10-minute question-and-answer session with the panel of reviewers to further discuss their pitches and describe their innovations.

After careful deliberation, the reviewers selected 10 finalist teams, each of whom won $100,000 in cash prizes and $75,000 in support vouchers. 

The Round 3 finalist teams are: 

  1. Team Enertronics: This team is developing a high-voltage, direct current (DC) power optimizer small enough to be built into a module's junction box.
  2. Team infiniRel: This team developed a patented hardware/software system that monitors solar inverters while they’re operating to detect component deterioration as well as software control issues.
  3. Team Maxout Renewables: This team developed a cost-effective system that turns a residential solar installation into a microgrid that can keep power on during a grid outage.
  4. Team Pursuit Solar: This team’s passive solar tracker enables panels to capture more solar energy without motors, controls, or external power. A small concentrating mirror system heats paraffin wax, which rotates the panels to track the sun when they’re properly positioned.
  5. Team Renu Robotics: This team is developing an autonomous electric lawnmower for utility-scale solar power plants that can maintain hundreds of acres a month without human interaction.
  6. Team Shine Technologies: This team is developing a small, lightweight, low-cost PV system with battery storage that can be stockpiled and deployed for emergency disaster relief.
  7. Team TrackerSled: This team is developing a movable single-axis tracker solar array for farms that can be towed around rotating crop fields on its pontoon skis. The array’s mobility will help farmers rotate their cash crop and cover crop fields, improving soil health, income, and power generation.
  8. Team Uplift Solar: This team is developing a chip that is both a direct-current converter and an MPPT that can be embedded in a module. It will have a microprocessor that enables power line communication, ensuring module compliance with code updates.
  9. Team Verify Energy: This team is developing a self-powered, easily installable, cellular data gateway to extract PV plant performance data from commercial and industrial scale PV plants.
  10. Team Wattch: This team combines cost-effective hardware with secure, scalable software to deliver insights and increase operational efficiency for commercial and industrial PV plants. This will result in predictive maintenance schedules that lower downtime, improve remote and automated diagnostics, and better model a plant’s lifetime energy yield.

See Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, announce the finalist teams: 


These 10 finalists will go on to compete in the final stage of the competition, the Go! Contest. Finalists will present their technologies one last time at Go! Demo Day in December 2020. Ultimately, only two final winners will be selected, each winning $500,000 in cash prizes and $75,000 in support vouchers to help them bring their technology to market.

Stay tuned to see who becomes the Round 3 final winners! 



Happening Today: Find Out Who Will Advance as a Round 3 Finalist

July 10, 2020, 8 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Last week, 20 Round 3 semifinalist teams submitted their Set! Contest pitch videos. Yesterday, teams participated in private Q&A sessions with a panel of expert reviewers. Today, we’ll find out which 10 teams were selected to continue to the final contest as finalists. 

The finalist announcement will also feature a speaker from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory who will be discussing the importance of innovation in the renewable sector.

Join us today at 1 p.m. ET to hear Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, announce the finalists. Each of the 10 finalist teams will win $100,000 in cash prizes and $75,000 in support vouchers for their solar technologies. 

Register here for this monumental finalist announcement!

Now Playing: Round 3 Set! Demo Day Pitches

July 6, 2020, 8 a.m. PDT by NREL Challenge

Round 3 semifinalists just submitted their Set! Demo Day pitch videos and you’re invited to see them! Last week, 20 semifinalist teams submitted their pitch videos to be viewed by a panel of expert reviewers, industry peers, and other stakeholders. Since February, these teams have been working diligently on their solar solutions, designing, building, and testing proofs-of-concept in preparation for Set! Demo Day. Now, you can see their progress showcased in the pitch videos.

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On Thursday, July 9, each team will have a private Q&A session with a panel of expert reviewers, after which the panel will deliberate and select 10 finalists. On July 10, Dr. Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, will announce the 10 finalist teams, each winning $100,000 in cash prizes, $75,000 in support vouchers, and a spot in the Go! Contest. 

The finalist announcement will also feature a speaker from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory who will be discussing the importance of innovation in the renewable sector. 

If you’re interested in seeing what’s on the horizon for the American solar industry, you won’t want to miss this exciting announcement! Watch the Round 3 pitch videos and tune in for the finalist announcement to see who continues in competition.


Solar Prize Round 3 Ready! Contest Semifinalists Announced!

Feb. 11, 2020, 9:10 a.m. PST by NREL Challenge

Dear Solar Prize community,

Thank you for your submission to the American-Made Solar Prize Round 3 Ready! Contest and for your patience during the selection process. We’re excited that 20 teams have been selected as semifinalists and were announced today by the U.S. Department of Energy. These teams are being contacted by the Solar Prize Team and are eligible to advance to the Set! Contest.

Here’s a brief description of the 20 semifinalists:


  • Durable Antireflective and Self-Cleaning Glass (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Pursuit Solar - More Power, Less Hassle (Denver, NC)
  • PV WaRD (San Diego, CA)
  • Remotely Deployed Solar Arrays (Charlottesville, VA)
  • Robotics Changing the Landscape for Solar Farms (San Antonio, TX)
  • TrackerSled (Chicago, IL)
  • Transparent Polymer Barrier Films for PV (Bristol, PA)
  • Solar for Snow (Duluth, MN)
  • SolarWall Power Tower (Buffalo, NY)

Systems Integration:

  • Affordable Local Solar Storage via Utility Virtual Power Plants (Parker, TX)
  • Allbrand Solar Monitor (Detroit, MI)
  • Beyond Monitoring – Next Gen Software and Hardware (Atlanta, GA)
  • Democratizing Solar with Artificial Intelligence Energy Management (Houston, TX)
  • Embedded, Multi-Function Maximum Power Point Tracker for Smart Modules (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Evergrid: Keep Solar Flowing When the Grid Is Down (Livermore, CA)
  • Inverter Health Scan (San Jose, CA)
  • JuiceBox: Integrated Solar Electricity for Americans Transitioning out of Homelessness and Recovering from Natural Disasters (Claremont, CA)
  • Low-Cost Parallel-Connected DC Power Optimizer (Blacksburg, VA)
  • Powerfly: A Plug-and-Play Solar Monitoring Device (Berkeley, CA)
  • Simple-Assembly Storage Kit (San Antonio, TX)

Read the descriptions of the projects that won the Round 3 Ready! Contest. 

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If you are not one of the semifinalists, we encourage you to keep innovating and looking for opportunities to improve your idea. There were numerous, impressive submissions to the Ready! Contest. In fact, there were more than 120 submissions from across the country. Many of these were great ideas but needed additional development and refinement to advance to the next level. In the coming weeks, you will receive an e-mail from the Prize Administrator with comments and feedback on your submission from the judges that reviewed it.   

We want to thank all teams for competing in the Ready! Contest and hope you continue to be an active member of the Solar Prize community. Please continue to utilize the American-Made Network to improve your ideas and watch for other opportunities to make them a reality. 

Should you have questions, please feel free to reach out at 

Round 3 Ready! Contest Now Closed

Dec. 12, 2019, 8 a.m. PST by NREL Challenge

Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry to the Solar Prize Round 3 Ready! Contest. Round 3 is now closed to submissions. We received many submissions and are excited to see all the creative ideas out there! 

For those who entered the Ready! Contest, please be on the lookout for peer review instructions coming this week. You will have until Tuesday, Dec. 17 at 5 p.m. ET to complete this mandatory part of the submission process.

We hope to announce Round 3 semifinalists in early 2020—stay tuned for the latest updates! 


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